How to Get a Temporary License Plate in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, you can apply for a temporary license plate online or in person. If you buy a car from a dealership, they’ll typically help you take care of this.
Written by Mary Alice Morris
If you’re a
resident and you buy a new car from a dealer, they will provide you with a set of temporary license plates to get you by until your regular plates arrive. But if you’re from out-of-state or buying from a private seller, the rules can be a little more complicated.
  • In Wisconsin, you have up to two days from the date of the purchase to obtain your
    Wisconsin license plates
    and registration, but applying for temporary plates will give you more time. 
  • Wisconsin temporary plates are valid for up to 90 days for in-state residents and up to 30 days for out-of-state residents.
  • Driving with fraudulent temporary plates in Wisconsin can cost you a $500 fine. 

Temporary plates in Wisconsin

Wisconsin temporary license plates are good for up to 90 days for state residents, and in some cases, up to 30 days for non-residents—or until you receive the permanent Wisconsin license plates for your vehicle.
There are a few different ways to get temporary plates in Wisconsin:
  • If you buy your car from a dealership: The dealership can issue the temporary plates for you. 
  • If you buy your car from a private seller: You can apply for temporary plates on your own. 

Can I drive a car without plates if I just bought it in Wisconsin? 

Wisconsin state law requires drivers to show either a permanent or temporary license plate within two business days of purchasing a vehicle. Until that deadline, you can drive your car without plates in Wisconsin. 
However, to avoid the potential hassle of being pulled over, it’s a good idea to apply for and display your temporary plates or temporary tags right away.
Remember: Temporary plates aren’t valid forever—so be mindful of the expiration date. 
If law enforcement pulls you over for driving without license plates in Wisconsin, you could face a fine of up to $200, per the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). 
Driving with fraudulent temporary plates in Wisconsin, on the other hand, can cost you $500.
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How to get a temporary license plate in Wisconsin

If you’re buying a car from a private seller and you’re a Wisconsin resident: You can easily apply for your license plates online. 
  • Using the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles website, you can apply to transfer the vehicle’s title of ownership and apply for new license plates (or apply to transfer old license plates over from another car). 
  • When you apply for new plates, the DMV will provide you with a printable temporary license plate you can display on the inside of your rear window on the driver’s side. If this is impossible in your new vehicle, then it can alternatively be taped on the inside of the rear passenger window on the driver’s side. 
If you don’t plan to apply for plates online: You can fill out the
Wisconsin Temporary License Plate Application
and submit it to any Wisconsin DMV service center. 

Temporary license plate fees in Wisconsin

  • All temporary license plate applicants: $5 service counter fee
  • Car owners with a vehicle that failed the state emissions test: $3 for a 30-day temporary plate while the car undergoes repairs 
  • Out-of-state residents buying a vehicle in Wisconsin and driving it home: $3 for a 30-day temporary plate (additional $5 service fee may apply)
  • Hobbyists who plan to use their hobby vehicles in January: $5 for a 5-day temporary license plate (part of special hobbyist license plate program for homemade vehicles, street mods, replica cars, and other hobbyist vehicles)
Keep in mind: You’ll also need to pay a registration fee in addition to your license plate fee in order for your vehicle to be road-ready.
You will be exempt from the temporary license plate fee if:
  • You’re a Wisconsin resident whose vehicle is subject to mandatory license plate display
  • You’re an active-duty military service member home on leave
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